How do I introduce a new dog to my existing dog?
When your pup is the only fur member in the family getting all the attention, there's likely to be a bit of tension when a new pet is introduced. Figuring out who will be top dog and sharing the love is difficult in the beginning for most pets.
It's important to always exercise caution when introducing two pets for the first time, particularly if one dog is significantly smaller or aggressive, to limit anxiety and prevent physical conflict.
The following steps are designed to decrease the likelihood of aggression between your pets, however if you have a particularly anti-social or territorial dog, we recommend speaking with an experienced behavioural trainer to ensure both pets will be safe.
One last thing before we start... Aside from body stance and vocalisation, dogs rely heavily on scent when meeting new people and animals. In fact, this is why dogs often sniff each other's derrieres when they meet. A dog's scent is predominantly dispersed through the anal sacs making this the prime sniffing spot to say hello.
To follow these steps, you'll need the help of a friend or relative that your existing dog trusts.
Top products for reducing anxiety during the introduction:
Step 1. Allow the new pet to explore alone
When you bring your new dog home, get your helper to take your existing pooch out for a walk. During this time let your new dog explore the home and get familiar with the smells of your house and other dog.
Step 2. Separate them and provide smells
Once your existing dog is back from their walk, have your helper take the new dog to a closed room or outside and give them of your existing dog's toys or blankets to play with. This step is really important as they are learning to associate positive thoughts with the smell.
Step 3. Business as usual
Go about your regular activities with your existing dog; e.g. have a play or cuddle in front of the tv. Stick to your normal routine, don't give them the cold shoulder or smother them with affection.
Step 4. Swap locations to get them used to the smell
Alternate which dog is in the house every 20-30 minutes to help familiarise them with each other's fresh scent and encourage them to play with the other dog's toys.
Step 5. Allow them to meet in a neutral setting
After rotating the dogs a few times, they should be ready to meet. Whenever you can, avoid introducing them at home as most dogs can be territorial; instead choose a neutral setting like the dog park. Decide on a route to the park with your helper and get them to walk ahead of you with one dog as you follow behind with the other. As most dogs love getting their walks, this is another way to associate each other's scent with a positive experience.
Once you arrive at the park, keep both dogs leashed when they first meet for better control. If they are getting over excited, try to distance them and expend some of their extra energy with a game of tug-of-war or lap around the park. When they're ready to play unrestricted, leave their leashes attached in case you need to quickly intervene.
Step 6. Let them interact at home
It's important to remember what a significant adjustment this will be for your existing dog who is used to having your undivided attention. It's only natural to be concerned about your new dog being anxious in their new home but be careful not to skew your attention in their direction.
Without meaning to, we had been giving our new dog special attention. As she has much higher physical needs than our Chihuahua, she would get taken on extra walks while little Nacho was left at home. We also played with him less as he would play with our new dog instead. But with some changes to our routine, we've been able to get little Nacho back to his happy little self.
Apart from using these steps in keeping your pets safe, they can also help reduce stress. A dog that's friendly with everyone at the park can often be territorial in their home. Always introduce new pets to each other in a neutral space where they both feel happy and relaxed. If problems persist and your dogs are still showing aggression to one another, an experienced trainer may be required for the safety and wellbeing of you and your pets.
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